Angry residents are gearing up to fight council plans to hand over a piece of green space next door to a popular pub to the brewery who own it.
Marston, the owners of the Cherry Gardens Hotel inWhitley, want to take control of the land - which houses the cherry trees after which the pub is named - and build a new convenience store on the site.
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A public notice revealed that the council, which currently controls the parcel of land, intends to hand the reigns back to the pub owners “for the purpose of proposed commercial retail development.”
No planning application has been submitted and the proposal is still in its infancy, but this hasn’t stopped local attempts to nip the plan in the bud.
Residents have unearthed documents which say the land is covered by a covenant, and a 999-year lease which was signed in 1953. The covenant expressly states that the land must be used as an ornamental garden for use by the public and no buildings are allowed there, except a shelter for the public and/or the storage of tools.
The council say they are unable to comment on this specific issue because at the time of going to print they don’t have access to the deeds.
Another concerned householder, who asked not to be named, has collected the signatures of more than 150 neighbours who object to the very idea of a development on the land.
She said: “It is in a conservation area, that is my concern.
“Even though it is only a proposal and seems quite innocent, quite a few people think it could be the start of something much bigger.
“I urge residents of the surrounding areas to group together to fight for what we believe is the right decision for the area we live. We have a right to defend it.
“Once they (the developers) take control, the battle just gets harder for us.
“The residents would like more openness and transparency.”
She also said the process of gathering the objections showed just how many people were unaware of the situation.
“Lots of people don’t know about it - people who live less than 100 yards away.
“We need to encourage locals to take an interest in this and be active.”
Wigan Central representative, Coun George Davies, said that while no planning permission has yet been sought, he would welcome the opportunity to view any plans.
He said: “I am very pleased from a councillor’s view that 150 residents so far have signed about this land, which my colleague, Coun Mike McLoughlin, is working on with our council’s planning team on any news.
“At this moment, no planning application is in.
“We have also been told that this land is in the conservation area of Wigan Lane and we, the ward representatives, will be there for our residents’ concerns on this issue.”
Coun McLoughlin said: “I think the people who have approached the planning department will find a number of high hurdles that need to be cleared.”
He added: “It might be difficult to clear them all, and the brewery might decide it is not worth following up.”
The land lies within the Wigan Lane Conservation Area, an area of special architectural or historic interest.
It grants extra protection to trees in the area, and strengthens control so that the area can be preserved well and further improvements to its appearance can be made.
The council spokesman said: “The council will consider the objections received as part of the statutory procedures for dealing with the disposal of Open Space.”
The deadline to register any objections to the plans has now passed and the council will now be considering all concerns. The owners of the Cherry Gardens have declined to comment on the proposals.